Cooking Tips

For Maximum Fond, Just Add Water

Try this game-changing technique for eking out meaty depth in soups, braises, and sauces.

Published Jan. 18, 2022.

To put it mildly, I'm fond of fond: the layer of super savory browned bits that sticks to the bottom of the pot or pan when you sear meat. It forms as the result of the Maillard reaction, when heat transforms the meat’s proteins and sugars into hundreds of new flavor compounds, and it can utterly transform soups, stews, and sauces. The more of it that develops, the more savory and rich-tasting the dish will be.

The classic way to encourage fond development is to sear meat in a little fat. But when you’re relying on trimmed meat scraps or bits of flavor-packed pork like pancetta or bacon to generate that browning, there’s a much more effective way to maximize the fond output: Add a little broth or water along with the meat and simmer until the liquid evaporates and the meat sizzles. It sounds counterintuitive, but simmering actually extracts the meat’s juices and fat much more thoroughly than searing does, so you’ll net more of that flavor-packed browning. Bonus perks: Because simmering draws out more fat, you don’t need to add any additional fat to the pan; and it’s a great way to utilize trimmings from steaks, chops, or a roast that you would normally throw away.

The proof is visible on the bottom of the pot: Once the liquid evaporates, the entire surface of the vessel will be coated with a gorgeously browned layer of fond. If possible, do the simmering in a vessel with lots of surface area like a large Dutch oven or skillet, which allows more of the drippings to make contact with the hot pan bottom and brown, resulting in maximum fond development.

Try it in recipes like Hearty Minestrone, Red Wine–Braised Pork Chops, or Braised Red Cabbage with Apple, Bacon, and Shallots. Or any other recipe where you’re searing meat to create fond.


For scraps and trimmings: Coarsely chop meat and add to pot or skillet with ½ inch of broth or water. Simmer (don’t boil) until liquid evaporates and leaves rich fond on surface of cooking vessel. Discard meat and proceed with recipe as directed. 

For smaller bits of meat: Finely chop meat and add to pot or skillet with ¼ inch of broth or water. (Smaller pieces require less water because they heat up more quickly and don’t need to simmer as long.) Simmer (don’t boil) until liquid evaporates and leaves rich find on surface of cooking vessel.

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